Our fostering of Beautiful Harry came to an end on Friday and he went back to kennels.
The day before he went, we had a wonderful time walking at Forty Hill, then sitting in front of Forty Hall, watching the ducks and Harry enjoyed watching the world go by. He had got used to his little routine here, and we were sad to take him back. Look how handsome he is, how can anybody resist him?
We would have kept him if either of us had been working full time, but we are both out of work at the moment....me with illness, and the OH was made redundant in February. It might be temporary, but not sure for how long. But Harry is more than ready to go into a home now though.
We think that he would suit a family, might like being the only dog or with another greyhound. He should be great around older kids (not babies) and he should have one strong handler in the family, just while he is training because his one tiny trait is that he gets excitable with dogs of other breeds, he really is not used to them yet and can pull a bit too hard for an elderly person, or younger child.
''I am a distinguished, handsome gentleman looking for a home,
where I can get to do all this exciting walkies stuff again''
Harry announced after his first time out of kennels in his life.
I feel like we got to know him really well, and cannot help thinking about his teeth which as he has been so long before adoption have got plaque on them, and it would be good if the teeth could be cleaned every day, and his ongoing training with other breeds continued daily. It is normally quiet on the beautiful woodland walks there. The dogs seem very happy in those kennels once settled and are extremely well cared for in a beautiful setting. Lily approves as she squeaks with impatience when we arrive there. They get to go outside about four times a day and their paddocks are about the size of a lot of people's gardens. These are the best kennels we have seen and Johanna and Louise set really high standards and the other staff there (Martin and Rosie who we have met plus others) are brilliant at keeping it up. Not a whiff of poo or wee anywhere and no fleas or ratty tails on the dogs. Nor any horrible pancakes or mounds in the paddocks either, just lovely green grass.
Whittingham Kennels with a new roof, and kennels on the left,
and paddocks on the right. Behind the kennels is a large
field sloping down to beautiful woods which are part of a forest.
When Harry first went into the back of the car, he just lay down and snoozed and was no trouble at all. When he arrived here, he had a good look around and then was right up on the sofa. He found the garden and throughout his stay, was happy to ask or go into the garden himself to do his toileting. He soon learned as well to do a wee on command, or to do a poo on command and to not do it on the patio and stick to the grass.
''I couldn't really smile any wider,
not even for cheese'' Harry said.
Indoors he learned some manners too. He was a bit of a fussy eater, but this is normal when hounds are settling in. They tend to get a bit stressed at change and pick at their food. Harry did have slightly sore looking gums, and we cleaned his teeth after every meal with a toothpaste that has antibacterial properties, and that was getting better after just a few days. All greyhounds and other breeds benefit from a good dental routine with doggie toothpaste as prevention of problems.
He was playful, cheeky, intelligent and quick to learn. He wanted to please and was very quiet at night and settled in with no separation anxiety at all. He was quite self sufficient and able to amuse himself, mainly by snoozing or looking out the window. He loved a cuddle, but was not insecure or clingy...just very friendly and likes to lean on you. He mainly avoided and ignored Lily's initial rudeness, although we kept our bedroom door open and could hear if any grumbles occurred.
Harry does get excitable with other breeds of dog, and will bark, whine, pull and jump in the direction of another dog. This means that for the moment, he could not be let off the lead and even on the lead is safer if he has a muzzle and a harness. But this was improving daily, and often he would choose to ignore a dog. The thing is to try and face the triggers that greyhounds have to chase, and to try and desensitise them to those triggers by constant exposure. If he got too excitable, we would yank the lead firmly and say ''No'' and the moment he is quiet we would say ''Quiet Good Boy'' and heap the praise on. Eventually greyhounds do give up the urge to lunge at other breeds, and if safely on the lead cannot do any harm anyway.
Sometimes sight hounds just cannot stop staring at their 'interest', after all they were trained to do that and if they are intelligent, then their behaviour was exemplary for the racing industry but we need to train them to be pets and they might be 100% distracted if they see something they want to chase. In those instances, an owner can grab hold of the dog's muzzle and point their face away from the object of interest, and try and get eye contact. A command of ''Watch Me'' is quite good, so that the moment a dog has eye contact and is paying attention to you, the Pack Leader, you can pet and reward with praise, or a biscuit, and say ''Watch Me'' as soon as the dog is looking at you.
When it comes to commands and praise timing is of the essence. I have known people with noisy dogs trying to teach their dogs to be quiet, who get the timing wrong.
Normally it goes like this:
A dog barks and gets excited. The owner, hoping to teach their dog to be quiet shouts ''Quiet, Quiet'' over and over again. Dogs being creatures of habit make a connection with that command, but the wrong kind of connection. The dogs think that every time they make a racket, their owner is shouting ''Quiet!'' therefore the behaviour they are displaying is the correct one for the command to be Quiet. It is important with all commands, that first of all a dog is shown what to do and then the command is given at the exact moment a dog is carrying out the correct behaviour. So we said Quiet to Harry when he was actually being quiet. Eventually, you should be able to make a request of a dog, and they should be able to associate the right behaviour with the command and carry it out for you to praise and reward.
Here is a list of all the commands he picked up whilst here:
Harry: He learned that this was his name. Might sound daft, but a lot of the time greyhounds just do not pick up their individual names in kennels. When they go home they often have their names changed by new owners anyway.
In the car: means he can jump in the car. It is important to get him to wait, just in case you need to move seats or objects or get another dog in the back...so he should only jump in the car on command.
Out: means out of the kitchen, and standing quietly on the step outside the kitchen whilst food is prepared and once it is put down, then the release command of ''off you go'' is given.
Off you go: Used to release a dog from an intensive command like sit, wait, down etc....
Do you want to go in the garden? This is an offer of the garden, which may be taken up if needed, but there is an option to choose not to go.
In the garden: This was to command the dogs to go into the garden to do their business intermittently and last thing at night.
Do a wee-wee (or whatever word you want)
Do a poo-poo (or other appropriate word): When it comes to toileting, the best thing to do with a new hound is take him into the garden about once every 90 mins or so, and get them to relieve themselves on grass or a chosen area. On the 2nd day, increase the gap between garden visits to every 2 hours. On the third day, try every 3 hours and then on the 4th day even longer. Eventually you will find when the dog wants to go, he will ask to go by quietly whining at the back door, or sniffing around. if he should have an accident in the house, just say 'No' firmly whilst he is misbehavin, and then drag him into the garden to try and finish the action and heap praise. Hounds don't want to go in the house which they see as their giant kennel, and they do ask to go out.
Whilst he is relieving himself, give the command for a wee or a poo at the same time as he is doing them, and tell him he is a good boy. Eventually the command will sink in and you will be able to request that he does a particular action, and it will stimulate him to want to go. Very useful for long car journeys when you need to stop for a quick toilet break. Try to get your dog used to doing this on the lead too.
Out the way: Literally means move out the way, to avoid being stepped on.
Up: This was usually an invitation to get up on the sofa, but could equally mean jumping up onto a bed, or other place. Hounds need little encouragement to jump up into a soft place, so why ask them to do it? It is important to do it so that the dog knows he is up there under your permission and there are conditions to having privileges if he misbehaves (starts kicking, grumbling or getting possessive over a sofa...then he needs to be asked to get down for you to reinforce your position as the pack leader.
Off: You can ask your hound to get off the sofa if you need to, and he should obey you as pack leader. If you are having trouble with the off command and he is not listening, then it is advisable to get the lead, clip it on, and then ask him to jump off whilst pulling on the lead. You could grab his collar but if a dog is confused and you do that, some dogs may give you a little nip...and that is to be avoided if possible. Once he is off give him loads of excited praise and a treat if you want.
On your bed: I like to train my hounds to get on their own beds. The rule is they keep all four paws in contact with the bed, and if they do that they may instantly be rewarded with a treat. Each dog should have a different bed that is normally 'theirs' at that moment.
Down: Greyhounds do not sit easily, so although the down is normally an advanced command from sit for obedience classes you may find that getting them to lie down is much easier. I normally go from standing, to down, by getting down to their level myself with a treat and it works. With Lily, I can get her to go down and then up into a sit.
Sit: a lot of classes will teach you to get a hound to sit by pushing gently on its rump. However, a lot of hounds have very stiff back legs and short hamstrings and tendons so do not easily bend those gangly legs into a sit. You will be lucky if your hound does a sort of sideways sit before dropping into the down. With Lily, I ask her to go down, then I reward, then I ask her to sit and with another treat, move it up and over her head and she will temporarily sit up, and I just repeat the word sit whilst she is sitting and tell her what a good girl she is and give a treat.
Wait: This commands a dog to stand perfectly still. It was used to keep Harry on the step until released, or to stand in the back of the car and wait until told he can jump out, and any other situations where he needs to wait. For example, I would expect the pack leader to be the first to through a doorway. It is bad manners for dogs to barge through a doorway and can be dangerous if doors shut on tails, so Harry learned to wait patiently and go through doorways calmly.
Night night. See you in the morning: this usually follows the command for on your bed, or up, and I make sure dogs have put themselves to bed wherever they want and are prepared for me to go for the night, and come back in the morning. It is a bit like putting babies to bed but without the story.
Watch Me: Do this as soon as a dog has eye contact and you can instill a bond, connection, and control a dog if they get easily distracted. You can take a treat, and move in the air so that a dog follows it. Sight hounds are especially good at staring at treats. Then you can bring the treat up, to the middle of your face in between your eyes and close your hand around the treat....the dog may give you pupil to pupil eye contact, and if he does, you must instantly say ''Watch Me'' and use that command at any point you have eye contact.
What are you doing/Think about it: Harry was not long enough with us to get to this advanced command. This we use for Lily, when she is doing something she should not be. For example, digging her bedding up into a mound and then sulking because she no longer has a bed. If we say No, and she continues to dig the bed we can follow it up with. What are you doing? in a warning voice, and she will stop and think about it. This can sometimes be used in a situation where a dog has not quite got a command right, or is jumping too far ahead...you can say ''think about it'' and your dog might actually stop, reset, and retry the command properly. What are you doing, has been abbreviated to ''doings'' in our house, to make our TV watching a little less interrupted! Lily has a bed behind the sofa, and if she is feeling a bit cold, or a bit naughty, she will start to dig into a huge pile but destroying the duvet filling...we just have to say ''Doings!'' in a warning voice, and she will stop doing it and lie down again, or she will come around the sofa, tap my hand twice, then lead me to the bed. I will smooth out the bed and insist she lies on it without any more digging. I would use the ''on your bed' command, or a 'lie down' command.
Leave (or Leave It): A very important command for a greyhound. From the outset, we make sure that hounds are happy with us taking their bowl away, or their bone away or other food or toy that they might get possessive about. This is important because greyhounds can chase, might get hold of something you do not want them to have or eat and its useful to get them to drop it right away. We managed to do this with Harry when he was naughty and stole a whole block of butter. We caught him and took it out of his mouth whilst saying ''Leave''. To safely remove something from a dog's jaw, it is best that you do not put fingers into the front teeth area and try and pull the toy/bone etc, because they will just clamp down and pull back harder. I put my fingers into the soft corners of their mouth, and then tease their mouth open there. It is sensitive and you touching that area will often get a dog to open their jaws or yawn and you can retrieve an object.
I would try this out with a chew toy, and I would take great care that when you take it, the dog also gets the reward of being given it again.
Its on the TV: I normally say this whilst watching TV, if the hounds are startled by something (we watched a film with a bank robbing scene and gunfire). Giving this quick reassurance, without touching them or looking at them, means that we as pack leaders are not going to react to the noise because it means nothing. When the hounds hear a noise outside and bark, I will allow them to bark for a couple of seconds as having warning guard dogs can be useful but then if I follow it with a command to be Quiet, that must be followed through.
Timing is the secret of training
When rewarding a dog for behaviour, it is very important that the reward coincides with the exact behaviour you want so you have to be quick to get the praise in. If you are finding your hound has lightning reactions you might find that clicker training is useful here. In those instances, you would get a dog to associate a reward with a treat, when you click the clicker. You keep your thumb on the 'button' for the clicker and press down immediately you see the behaviour you want....then you reward.
The click means an affirmation of good behaviour to the dog, with a promise of a reward to follow. So it would go like this
Owner: Sit! (command)
Dog: Sits down (Desired behaviour)
Owner: Click (coincides with the dog sitting).
Dog: Hears click and knows he did the right thing and a reward is promised.
Owner: Follows up click by giving a reward or praise.
One of the things that a lot of novices seem to forget is that you cannot reason with a dog in English, to try and persuade it not to do something. Some dogs will see any nice gooey talking as a reward, and will instantly assume that what they are doing is correct....her is an example of what I mean:
Dog: ''Growls'' and grumbles at someone walking past (undesired behaviour)
Owner: ''There there Fido, there's no need to get grumpy is there? Please don't do that...try and be nice'' (pets dog and thus rewards it for undesired behaviour).
A similar thing can happen with a dog who is fearful. Imagine that there is a terrible thunderstorm, and a dog runs to it's owner in order to gain some comfort or to see if the owner is reacting. It goes like this
CLAP OF THUNDER.
Dog: Whines, whimpers and runs to owner for comfort.
Owner: ''There, there, no need to be scared of thunder...I'm here'' (Pets dog, and thus rewards it for fearful behaviour).
It is so tempting to comfort a dog, when it appears to be upset, but that just reaffirms to the dog that it has a reason to be upset and that you prefer it to exhibit that behaviour. The best way to deal with fearful behaviour is to show strong leadership, and you can show that you did hear something but that it is nothing at all to worry about, and calmly carry on whatever you were doing previously ignoring the perceived threat.
Actually, if there is a loud noise or something on the TV makes the hound jump, they instantly look at the pack leader (owner) or other dogs, to see if they reacted to it and to find out whether they should be fighting or fleeing.
This week, there was a loud noise of something sliding and breaking on the TV and both Harry and Lily jumped and both looked at the OH, and then looked at me. We did not react in any way and carried on watching the TV. The dogs immediately settle, satisfied that Pack Leaders have not detected any danger.
''I could get used to this way of life'' said
Harry gazing into the sunny woods
''Who could resist this jet black handsome hound eh?
I could be a model, I've got the legs for it'' says Harry.
''Am I supposed to be up here?'' said Harry, slightly apologetically,
but not really that remorsefully.